Children’s terror after car arson attack damages home

The children of a terminally-ill man are terrified after an arson attack threatened their family home as they watched TV inside.

Cancer sufferer Walter McHugh, an Irish Traveller, was at his Bewbush home when his car parked outside was set alight on Thursday evening (November 15).

The blaze caused several explosions which melted the windows of his living room where his children aged 13, 14, 17 and 18, were inside.

A replacement hire car parked outside a friend’s house on Waterside Close, Bewbush, was destroyed in a second arson attack on Monday morning (November 19).

Walter, 52, received a postcard before the attack calling him a ‘scumbag’ and warning him he would ‘get what’s coming’ to him.

He believes the attack was racially motivated.

He said: “At the end of the day it’s a racist attack. The kids are scared as hell, really frightened and crying. They don’t want to go to school, they don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

Police are linking the arsons and forensically examining the postcard.

The attack has been recorded as a hate crime but police say they have no evidence of a racial motive.

Walter described the moments after the first attack.He said: “I was cooking in the kitchen and I heard a bang. I looked outside and all I could see was flames.

“I thought the house was on fire. The first thing I did was put the kids out into the back garden.

“There were flames everywhere, going as high as the house. The car exploded about six times.”

He used his car to make regular trips to East Surrey Hospital after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He said he had been given 12 months to live.

Walter has lived in the same house for 12 year.

He said his half-Indian children suffered racial abuse. He added: “ I’m trying to live a normal life in a house, I’m sending my kids to school to get an education, to be independent, and this happens.

“I think it’s just stupidity. Crawley is racist against travellers, they don’t want us here.

“We’re changing our ways, we’re moving up, but people don’t like us.”

Cancer treatment and strong medication has left him drowsy and he is terrified of further attacks and of not being able to protect his children.

The attacks are being jointly investigated by the police and the fire service.

A police spokesperson said: “We are making every effort to engage with the victim of these linked arson attacks in an effort to generate further lines of inquiry.

“A postcard, which we have retrieved from the house, is being forensically examined.

“We are keeping an open mind as to the motive.

“There is no evidence to suggest a racial motive or any hate crime, however the victim believes there maybe so we have recorded it as such and we are in liaison with our partner agencies.

“Working with the council certain preventative measures have been put in place and our investigation continues.”